For those analogue ‘tragics’ comfortable enough in their own
skins to keep playing MM cartridges despite the media and peer-pressure
propaganda towards MCs…….the success of Jico and their after-market replacement
styli has been good news.
Of particular delight to that minority still playing vintage
MM cartridges……the success of the SAS stylus from Jico.….. has transformed
cartridges like the Shure V15, Victor X1 and Z1 and Garrott P77 into
world-beaters amongst the cartridge elite.
What is so special about the SAS stylus?
It seems that Jico has invented a profile more radical that
the standard ‘Line-Contact’, VdH or Shibata…..
An inspection of the diamond under a 60x loupe displays
cutting-edge profiles I have never before seen on a stylus.
Jico claims that this profile better fits the record groove
and is more akin to the profile of the cutting-lathe stylus.
The better the stylus fits into the record groove, the less distortion
is caused by high-amplitude reproduction
But claims are pretty meaningless in the analogue world
unless they are backed up……
And with the SAS stylus, the performance matches the
In all three cartridges I have used….original 35 year
Garrott P77, Shure V15/III and Victor Z1….the SAS has transformed each one, from
a very good performer to a superlative one.
The improvement over the original manufacturer’s stylus is
From frequency response (bass and treble in particular) to
transparency to sound-stage (both width and depth) but most importantly……to the
emotional content able to be extracted from the vinyl grooves.
My three SAS-equipped MM cartridges leapt into contention as
‘the best’ of the 80 or so cartridges I have owned and bettered all but 3 or 4
of the 20 LOMC cartridges I have owned……
So imagine the reaction when Jico announced 2 years ago that
production of the SAS stylus was being suspended……?
The original SAS stylus came with a boron cantilever and
there appears to be a problem with the world’s supply (or price) of boron….?
Now I have a preference for beryllium as a cantilever
material but because of safety standards surrounding the toxicity of beryllium
during the manufacturing process……it is no longer offered as a cantilever
Why they can still use it for dome tweeters is a mystery to
Boron is used as a cantilever material by many cartridge
manufacturers…..Dynavector, ZYX, Lyra to name but a few….so why Jico is no
longer supplying it is puzzling.
Six months ago, Jico announced the re-introduction of the SAS
stylus but this time with a choice of sapphire or tapered-ruby cantilever….both
at massive price hikes to the boron.
The tapered-ruby is almost 4 times the cost of the original
A comparison of the three SAS assemblies is revealing……
With the original boron cantilever, the actual stylus is
buried under an epoxy glue sarcophagus in a manner that can only be described
as rather crude….
Just the tip of the faceted diamond is visible poking out of
The new synthetic jewel cantilevers are different animals
The sapphire appears translucent (not blue) with the nude
stylus expertly and neatly cut into the jewelled rod whilst the ruby is even
more impressive, again having a nude diamond cut into the ruby rod which has
been ‘shaved’ down 2 or 3 sides to create the ‘taper’. And this rod glows
‘pink’…..justifying its premium pricing ?
I picked the Garrott P77 for this test because the
neo-SAS(R) was not yet available for the Z1 and the V15/III, though
wonderful…..was not quite up to the standards of the other two……
When I received the two new SAS styli, I was in two minds
Could the simple change in cantilever material make a
noticeable difference in performance?........and for the price increases, it
There is little doubt in my mind that the SAS’s performance
boost was due primarily to the radical stylus shape and as noted
earlier…..boron is a respectable cantilever material utilised by
high-performance exotic MC cartridges the world over.
If sapphire or ruby were to offer even increased performance
benefits over the boron…..then why wouldn’t other manufacturers have already
These thoughts mingled with the aesthetic appreciation of
the ‘nude’ mounting and the ‘glowing’ jewelled rods as I swapped out my
original SAS and went straight to the neo-SAS(R)….
If I was expecting a revelation…..I was disappointed.
In fact, if I was expecting a difference …..I
No matter how many albums I played (and each album side I
would change styli)….I could discern no differences.
And I really tried to hear differences….
At one point I thought I had picked the only audible
difference as being slightly better bass response with the two jewelled
This was revealed by albums from Massive Attack and Dead Can
So I brought in the decider for bass reproduction…..the
Barber ‘Adagio for Strings’ on Gary Karr’s ‘En Aranjuez con tu Amor’ (Firebird)
sends even my Vandersteen 2Wq subwoofers into fibrillation mode…..
But no……seemingly equal bass response…..
So there you have it…..
For two weeks I have exhausted my test-record catalogue,
loosened the stylus-plug-insert on my Garrott P77, annoyed my wife and angered
And I can report that I am able to discern no differences….absolutely
none….between the original SAS the neo-SAS(S) and the neo-SAS(R).
I’m sure that there will be those who will claim they can
hear differences and the differences are like ‘night and day’…..
Good luck to them.
Maybe they can….maybe they can’t.
At least I will have no need to buy replacement neo-SAS
styli for my Z1 and V15/III.
The good thing to take away from this exercise is this:-
The neo-SAS stylus assembly from Jico is just as good as the
original SAS and for that…..the analogue world should be eternally